5 3 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

(WBIR-Knoxville) William Carithers has been a butcher in Knoxville for 15 years.

"It's just my passion. It's what I love," he said.

He said he opened Willy's Butcher Shop in 2013. He gets a lot of his pork and sausage locally, but his beef comes from the Midwest.

"Our beef comes out of Kansas and Oregon," he said. "It does come from small co-op independent family farms."

David Vandergriff, Extension Agent at the University of Tennessee, said a vast majority of beef is purchased from Texas and the Midwest. He said due to an ongoing drought, prices are the highest they have ever been.

"Texas is the number one state in cattle production. With the drought that they've had, they've had to sell off a lot of their herds," he said.

Wholesale beef prices have jumped 24 percent this year, reaching an all-time high of $2.48 a pound, according to experts at UT.

The USDA says consumers will pay as much as 6.5 percent more for beef this year and prices could continue to increase over time.

"The cattle numbers are the lowest they have been in 63 years. That's pretty significant. Since it takes a couple years to get the numbers back up, we are going to be looking at increased prices for a couple of years."

The increase is forcing some local restaurants to increase their prices or completely take it off of the menu. Managers at Buddy's BBQ in Knoxville said several of the restaurants have actually stopped selling beef due to a lack of popularity and the nationwide price increase.

Carithers said it requires him to find the best value for the highest quality product.

"Sometimes the price doesn't really affect us but other times it does," he said. "Sometimes the price is extremely high and we just don't carry that cut."

Increased prices causes a chain effect. If the business pays more, it must charge more too.

"Hey we're not doing this because we want to. We're doing this because we have to and it is a business at the end of the day," Carithers said.

Conner's Concepts, the owner of Chop House in Knoxville, is another business affected by the increased prices in beef.

Mike Conner said their main beef supplier is out of Atlanta. The contract increased 3.6 percent over the last year.

5 3 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1lYPukf